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Study reveals lack of data on opioid drugs for chronic pain

Researchers have found little to no evidence for the effectiveness of opioid drugs in the treatment of long-term chronic pain, despite the explosive recent growth in the use of the drugs.

Source: Sciencedaily.com – Top Health News

We probably all use opioids for pain relief. We all know that there has been a recent explosion of the production of these opioids in the medical world today. What we probably did not know is that there is very little or probably no evidence at all to show that these drugs actually take care of chronic long-term pain. Well, a new study; a National Institutes of Health (NIH) white paper has brought this to the forefront. The paper makes up the final report of a 7 man panel convened by the NIH in September last year to carry out research on the topic. The paper suggests that many of the studies carried out to justify the prescription of these drugs were either not properly carried out, or did not last long enough.  The NIH white therefore paper finds little to no evidence of the effectiveness of opioid drugs in the treatment of long-term chronic pain.

Dr. David Steffens, chair of the psychiatry department at UConn Health and one of the authors of the study says this discovery makes the wide use of opioids very surprising. Prescriptions for opioid drugs also known as opiate drugs (the two terms are technically distinct, but most physicians use them interchangeably) have reportedly more than tripled in the past 2 decades. The study says more than 219 million prescriptions were written in 2011.

The abuse of these drugs has also skyrocketed. This has led to some people referring to prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. The CDC reports that more than 16,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2012; the agency says drug overdose now causes more deaths than motor vehicle accidents for people ages 25-64.

Opoiod use is no doubt a big problem these days. The researchers note that one of the great challenges in grappling with this issue is the fact that the drugs clearly works for some people when it comes to dealing with pain. It is however hard to predict where and when trouble will crop up. Part of the problem, they note, is the need for better communication about best practices to physicians who are prescribing these drugs.

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